Sunday, September 30, 2012

Have Bikes, Will Travel

After the Masters Cat 4 race, Jeff Wren readies himself for additional punishment in the Elite Cat 4 field.
What a long weekend!  What a wonderful weekend!  I spent more than 7 hours in the car just to do 1.5 hours of racing, and it was more than a fair trade.

On Saturday I placed 7th in Cat 4 Masters 45+ at Twilight Cross in East Troy.  Going into the race I was in 3rd place on series points, so I got a valuable call-up and started from the front row.  The first lap was a prologue … really just half a lap to create some separation in the field.  I had a good start and avoided some crashes and nonsense, but on the first full lap a rider went down right in front of me.  I didn’t crash but I also didn’t have anywhere to go, so I lost precious momentum.  By Lap 3 I had settled into a nice rhythm, but I had also settled into 7th place and there was no prospect of retaking 6th from John Grosz, whose speed I was merely matching after he passed me and created a 15- to 20-second gap.  In the dying moments of the race I picked off a few stragglers from the 35+ group as I stretched out my lead over the guys who were chasing me.  The course featured a fair amount of off-camber cornering and I handled the bike well, I just wasn’t as fast as the guys who beat me.  Series points leader Dave Dineen claimed the victory and looks like the man to beat this season.  Jeff Wren was 12th in the 18-man field.  Mike Bown represented West Bend in the Cat 4 Masters 55+ race and took a very impressive 2nd place.

Getting home from East Troy at about 7:30 p.m., I quickly unpacked all the cyclocross stuff and then packed up all the mountain bike stuff for this morning’s WORS race, the Bear Paw Rock & Roll.  I went to bed early but that did me no good; I couldn’t turn off my brain and at about 1 a.m. I was seriously considering just abandoning any hope of sleep.  I got a few minutes here and there, then the alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and I grabbed some cereal and a Coke.  By 5:30 a.m. I was on the road to White Lake, about 150 miles from home.  I arrived at the race venue at 8 a.m., then quickly checked in at the registration table and hopped on the bike for a practice lap.

I didn’t like what I saw.  The singletrack sections were more difficult than anything I had yet seen on a Citizens (Cat 3) course, and some of the fire roads—on which I normally would be free to fly—were a dangerous mix of sand and loose, deep gravel.  On the other hand, there were some sections that I knew would be better for me than for my rivals, including a pair of long climbs.

The first of the long climbs is the steepest and it presents a test of bike handling and aerobic fitness.  I was content to follow Paul Baltus to the summit on Lap 1, then I took the lead with a burst on the two-track that followed.  Reaching the first section of singletrack, I was able to dictate the pace and pick my own line.  Things were going well until the midpoint of Lap 1 when a rider I didn’t recognize passed me and rode away.  I was disappointed that I couldn’t stay with him, but my main objective was to keep Brad Jorsch from overtaking me.  So far, so good.

Jorsch began the day in 3rd place on series points and still had a chance to catch me for 2nd overall.  If I could finish ahead of him, then I would secure my final position in the series.  Points leader Jim Steig—who locked up the Cat 3 Men’s 40-49 title weeks ago—opted for the Cat 2 “Sport” race today.

In the very technical singletrack near the end of Lap 1, Jorsch fought his way back to me.  We went toe-to-toe on the big climb to begin Lap 2, then I pulled away from him as I had from Baltus earlier.  I hammered the open sections, taking risks I wouldn’t have in practice and feeling the bike floating around under me on the sand and gravel.  But the time gaps I pulled out there all went quickly away once we got back into the singletrack.  Jorsch and I passed each other a few times and even joked that neither of us could shake the other.  With Jorsch in front of me on a particularly nasty section of the trail, my frustration with myself grew as I hacked my way between large, closely-spaced boulders.  It was getting late, and Jorsch now had about 15-20 seconds on me.

But this was not to be a repeat of the cyclocross race in which John Grosz was always just out of reach.  I knew that if I still had Jorsch in sight on the long climb near the end of the lap, then I had a good chance.  I overtook him on the hill, went first into the final little section of singletrack, then locked out the front fork and shifted into the big chainring for a high-speed dash to the finish.  I hit the line in 1:04:30.6, followed 1 second later by Jorsch.  Baltus came in at 1:05:06.6, and John Norman at 1:09:40.4.  The winner was Rick Johnson of Woodstock IL in 1:01:50.9.  By taking 2nd place today I extended my series points advantage over Jorsch to 1,349-1,304, so I will finish in 2nd place overall no matter what happens in Sheboygan on Oct. 14.

And that’s important to me, because I haven’t decided whether I will race at Sheboygan.  I might be doing the cyclocross race in Verona that morning … or I might still be catching up on my sleep.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

We’re From The Government And We’re Here To Help

While riding through Quaas Creek Park on Monday I noticed some new signs and, well, let’s just say that my first reaction wasn’t positive.


The sign above seems to indicate that bikes are forbidden, but that’s not exactly the case.  Travel just a few feet down the trail and you’ll reach a second sign that explains the new rule:


So, you can bring your bike … you just have to walk it up to 1/3-mile:


What problem are we trying to solve with these signs?  Was there a recent bike-versus-pedestrian accident?  I approached the City of West Bend and got this response:

“These signs were installed under direction of the Department of Transportation (DOT), as the DOT partially funded the Quaas Creek riverwalk’s construction through a grant.  The boardwalk sections of the riverwalk do not meet DOT standards for trail width to accommodate multi-users (bicyclists and pedestrians), so instead of reconstructing the entire boardwalk, it was determined that the City would install signs.  The type and location of the signs was approved by the DOT prior to the installation.  This was necessary for the City to receive reimbursements on grants for the newest part of the project over the Milwaukee River, and also to be eligible for funding grants in the future.”

I’m grateful for the explanation.  Now that I know a federal government agency is the instigator, it makes sense that it doesn’t make sense.  If the trail isn’t wide enough to accommodate a pedestrian and a bicyclist, then isn’t it even less accommodating when that bicyclist is walking next to his/her bike?  I guess the logic is that the bicyclist-turned-pedestrian is now moving at the same speed as the pedestrian, so an acceptably small amount of damage will result when they brush against each other as they pass.  You might ride through Quaas Creek Park a hundred times before you see another soul on those trails.  These new signs are the solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.  Of course, the DOT’s standards are meant to apply universally and not just in our quiet corner of the world.

Still, isn’t it odd that a motor vehicle—one which may be traveling at a very high rate of speed—must give a cyclist just 3 feet of clearance, but a cyclist traveling at 10-15 mph on a multi-use trail cannot be trusted to pass a pedestrian safely?

In Other News …

While I had the attention of the City of West Bend, I also inquired about the gravel trail that extends from Quaas Creek Park north to Stockhausen Lane.  Many cyclists have found the gravel to be unacceptably coarse and hoped the section would be paved with asphalt.  That’s not in the city’s plans, as the gravel trail crosses private property for which the city has an easement.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

2012 Northern Kettles Fall Epic

On Saturday afternoon I paired up with Steve Cummins of Team Pedal Moraine in the 5-hour duo competition of the Northern Kettles Fall Epic at New Fane, race number 8 of the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series.  Steve and I took 2nd place … out of two teams.  We completed the same number of laps (11) as the husband and wife team of Gary & Jen Barden, but we couldn’t match their speed.  It took us 4:50:46, but it took them just 4:43:38.  The Bardens also won the middle-distance duo category at the RASTA Rock ’n Root on Aug. 4 in Rhinelander and have ridden well in other WEMS races this year.  They were tough; no holes in their game.

Steve and I approached the race as a training exercise.  We have no series ambitions in WEMS but each of us still has something to play for in WORS, and Saturday was a good tune-up for the Bear Paw Rock & Roll race at White Lake on Sep. 30.  At New Fane, Steve had a faster start but then things evened out:

24:26    Steve
25:33    Steve
27:30    Dave
27:45    Dave
25:14    Steve
26:55    Dave
26:04    Steve
26:25    Dave
26:19    Steve
26:43    Dave
27:52    Steve


It was my first experience racing as part of a duo.  There’s a different mindset.  You know how long it’s going to take your teammate to complete a lap, so you have time to eat, drink, make equipment or wardrobe adjustments, use the bathroom, etc.  You recover from the effort of your lap, but you also cool off.  Restarting after a break doesn’t feel exactly like your first lap, but it’s close.  There certainly was a rhythm to the race and a relaxed vibe that was altogether different from the Go-Go-Go of WORS.  I like both formats.

Turnout for all divisions was small, but everyone enjoyed the racing as WEMS returned to New Fane for the first time since 2008.  Credit to Bill & Brittany Nigh of Team Pedal Moraine for hosting the event, and to the volunteers who assisted them.  Hopefully we’ll see New Fane on the schedule again next year.  Saturday’s attendance was low in part because of other big cycling events across the state.  On a different weekend in 2013, the New Fane race might really take off.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Regrets, I’ve Had A Few

One of my favorite authors, H.G. Wells, was born on this date in 1866.  Wells wrote science fiction stories so compelling that they are still enjoyed today, including The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898).

Most famous of all, perhaps, was The Time Machine (1895), in which the hero travels to a distant future where human beings have split into two distinct groups.  While the book portrays both the Morlocks and the Eloi as repugnant in different ways, the 1960 film version depicts the Eloi as elegant idiots whose minds and bodies have gone soft from generations of idleness.

Yvette Mimieux was tasty … in more ways than one.

Wells was an incredibly imaginative man but not even he could foresee a future in which idleness led not to a reduction in human stature but instead to a corpulent expansion.  Nonetheless, the basic concept of time travel continues to seduce us.  We long to know the future and wish we could change—or at least revisit—the past.

People who say they have lived with no regrets always strike me as disingenuous.  In my own experience there are so many things I would have done differently that I could fill a book with them.  But you’re not here to read about my clumsy attempts at romance, career and scholarship; this is a cycling blog.  If I could pedal backwards on the Fixed-gear Bike of Life, here’s what I would change:

1970s

While living in central Illinois in 1978 I rode my Huffy road bike from my home in Charleston to Paris and back, a distance of 56 miles.  That was pretty ambitious for a 13-year-old who had only recently stepped up to a 10-speed from a Sears BMX bike.  But I never followed up on that ride.  I lived in a small town surrounded by miles of quiet country roads.  It would have been a great place to develop as a rider.  If I could go back to that time, I would throw myself into the sport and in my teens come to an understanding of cycling that I didn’t reach until my 40s.

1980s

As a high school student in Racine, I replaced my ugly Huffy with an sharp new Raleigh Rapide.  One of my friends had a gorgeous Schwinn Le Tour and we talked about doing something more serious than just riding around town, but nothing ever materialized.  As soon as cars and girlfriends entered the picture, the bikes began to collect dust.  I chose to sell mine rather than to take it with me when I moved to suburban Philadelphia in 1988.  If I could go back to that time, I at least wouldn’t sell the Raleigh!  Racine wasn’t the most bike-friendly town but if my head had been in the right place I could have become a serious rider there.  My girlfriend was very athletic and almost certainly would have joined me if I had embraced the sport.

1990s

I didn’t own a bike or even ride a borrowed one from 1988 until 2003.  That’s unbelievable to me now.  Having missed opportunities in the 1970s and 1980s, I should have seen the benefits of cycling during the 1990s.  Early in the decade I was back in Wisconsin, living on the east side of Milwaukee.  I had a job downtown and usually drove or took the bus to work.  A bike would have been just as quick and so much cheaper.  With the money I spent on parking I could have bought a very fine bicycle.  And by this time I was getting really out of shape.

In 1996 I got married.  My wife and I knew we wanted to start a family and I knew improving my fitness could only benefit our future children.  I bought a treadmill and some dumbbells.  I got stronger, but cycling was still far from my mind.  We moved to the suburbs, first Oak Creek and then Hales Corners.  I had access to good roads.  I also had a new coworker who was a very accomplished road racer.  He spoke enthusiastically about the sport, but his tales of 100-mile training rides seemed insane to me.  Had I been more receptive, I would have found a willing mentor.

2000s

I moved to West Bend in June 2001 and it is at that moment that the regrets stop.  Two more years would pass before I bought a mountain bike just to ride around town for a little exercise, but I don’t think I would go back in time to change the progression of events that took me from 2003 to today.  I would erase the handful of crashes I’ve had, but the other moments of my cycling career—whether glorious or shameful—probably needed to happen just the way they did to bring me to where I am now.

I like where I am now, and I like the future into which I think I am heading.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

’Cross Weather

Members of the local cyclocross community have been meeting at Royal Oaks Park in West Bend for the last seven Tuesdays and at first there were some remarks about the hot weather making our practices feel out of place and not like “real” cyclocross.  Well, there were no such complaints today.  A cold breeze from the northwest and temperatures in the low 50s definitely made today feel like autumn.

I began my day with streaming coverage of the women’s UCI world championship time trial, in which American Evie Stevens took the silver medal behind Germany’s Judith Arndt.  As the defending champion, Arndt was the last rider to start, making for great drama as Stevens waited to see whether her time would hold up.  Next year for sure, Evie!  The men’s world championship TT is scheduled for tomorrow and I will watch it with great interest.  But for me the main event on Wednesday is CrossVegas, the first big date on the professional cyclocross calendar.  There will be streaming coverage starting at 10 p.m. Central, so tune in to watch defending US champion Jeremy Powers, Wisconsin’s own Brian Matter, and a host of other domestic and international men and women.

Between the TT and the cyclocross races on Wednesday, I will try to squeeze in a few practice laps at New Fane in preparation for Saturday’s WEMS race.  I’m pairing up with my Team Pedal Moraine teammate Steve Cummins for the 5-hour race.  It’s great to see WEMS returning to New Fane and it’s important to support a race so close to home.  Bill & Brittany Nigh are hosting.  I hope to perform well and will be very interested in comparing my lap times to those of more accomplished mountain bikers.  In WORS races, the higher categories usually have a more challenging course than the Cat 3s, but in a WEMS race everyone rides the same trails.  I’ll get a good feel for how far I have developed as a rider this year … and how far I still have to go.

Racing at New Fane on Saturday means no US Gran Prix of Cyclocross for me.  The two-day event in Sun Prairie will feature some of the same top-level pros as CrossVegas, as well as local pros and amateurs.  But with no WCA series points on the line, it’s a good event for me to skip.  I have a lot of two-race weekends coming up and neither my energies nor my finances are inexhaustible.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

2012 Lake Geneva Cyclocross

Today's course was awesome for racers and spectators alike.
I placed 6th out of 19 racers in Cat 4 Masters 45+ this morning at Lake Geneva and was really happy with my result.  Isn’t that funny?  It’s only one position higher than last weekend, but I feel so much better about it.  That’s the difference, I guess, between having high expectations and being more realistic.

Seven of the racers in today’s field were from Illinois.  I thought there might be many more and that in a big field I might have a low placing with few, if any, series points.  But several of the “usual suspects” from Wisconsin skipped today’s race for some reason.  Only two of the six guys who beat me at Sheboygan were on the starting line today, so with two mid-pack finishes I’m now up to 3rd place on points in the series.

Ken Krebs was today’s winner, closely followed by Dave Dineen, the new series leader.  Paul Fox took 3rd, Jed Schleisner 4th, and a late-charging Larry Gundlach 5th.  I was ahead of Gundlach until early in the final lap when he found some crazy second wind and just blew by me.

The course was outstanding, a great mix of fast sections and technical challenges.  I was good on the gravel road hill climb and over the double barriers whose placement turned a rideable hill into a run-up.  And on all four laps I rode well through the sand volleyball court.  Prior to the race I completed two practice laps and the experience helped a lot.  I handled all of the technical stuff well.  So, why only 6th place?  I think the answer is an inadequate warmup.

Cycling orthodoxy says: The shorter the race, the longer the warmup.  At about 30 minutes, my cyclocross races are very short.  At Sheboygan and again today, I had a good start but faded midway through Lap 1.  Somewhere in the middle of Lap 2, I rediscovered my legs and had plenty of punch from then on.  I think a longer warmup will get me over the hump, so that will be part of the pre-race strategy at East Troy on Sep. 29.

Disappointed with his 11th place finish today, Jeff Wren will try a longer warmup too.  Like me, he is fading after a strong start, then making a comeback.  Troy Sable took 10th place—I spent a long time looking at his back wheel, but I finally put him away on the run-up.  We’ll be back on the ’cross bikes this Tuesday for another practice session.  Practice will begin at 5:30 p.m., as usual, and we’ll start a 30-minute race simulation at 6 p.m.

And, by the way, during today’s race I surpassed 4,000 miles of cycling so far in 2012.  There’s an outside chance that this could be my second consecutive 5,000-mile year, but I won’t kill myself to reach that milestone.  Last year I reached 4,000 miles on Sep. 9, so I’m a week behind my 2012 pace.

By 11 a.m. it was already a nice Sunday, but the cherry on top was a late afternoon tour of Loops 1 & 2 at New Fane with my son Ryan.  For him, riding a bike is just a way to get around our neighborhood.  But today I was able to coax him into some mountain biking.  He did a good job, thanked me for taking him, and wants to go again sometime.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Cyclocross Anniversary

Anniversary / Birthday / Whatever.  Have a cupcake!
One year ago today I rode my Diamondback Steilacoom RCX cyclocross bike for the first time.  I got it just early enough in the day to set it up for my very first cyclocross practice later that evening.  It would take a few days for me to adjust everything perfectly, but I was happy with the bike right away.  How happy?  Well, from the day I got it the Steilacoom was the only bike I rode until I took my Raleigh Competition for a short spin on March 15.  During those six months, the Steilacoom was more than just my cyclocross bike; I also used it to tear up the Eisenbahn State Trail and as a winter road bike.  This year the Steilacoom has been my choice for half of all my rides—78 out of 155—including 47 fast miles today on the Eisenbahn, 41 of which I rode with Jeff Wren as we tuned-up for Lake Geneva Cross.

Obviously I would like a good result in Sunday’s race, but it’s going to be tough.  My mid-pack finish last weekend didn’t give me any reason to expect a high finish at Lake Geneva.  In fact, it might be a throwaway race.  In the WCA’s new format, only the 10 best finishes count toward a racer’s position in the series standings.  A great weather forecast and a huge influx of racers from Illinois should ensure that Sunday’s field is one of the largest this season, and that means points could be in short supply.  By finishing 7th out of 16 in my age group last weekend I earned 11 points.  If I’m 17th out of 35 on Sunday I will earn just 1.

But there’s no question that I’m going to give it a try anyway.  It’s only the second race of the year and unless/until I reach 11 there are no throwaways.  Every point counts, and maybe the best I can hope for is to stop one of my rivals from getting an extra point or two.  If nothing else, the race will be a good training opportunity—it will be just my 9th cyclocross race ever, after all.  I could use the experience and the 30 minutes of hard intervals.

Monday, September 10, 2012

(Just Like) Starting Over

It’s been too long since we took the time …
Today I hit the weights for the first time since injuring my left shoulder in a softball game on July 26.  I probably could have returned to strength training a week or two ago, but only recently have I been free of little twinges.  Fortunately the injury didn’t keep me off the bike.  If the lower body had withered as much as the upper body apparently has, then I wouldn’t be much of a cyclist anymore.

It’s scary how quickly fitness can disappear.  After 30 minutes in the home gym doing a routine that I would have considered “light” just a few weeks ago, I’m literally trembling from the effort.  But in a way that’s good.  Those twitchy muscles are waking up from a long nap.  They’ll come back; they have before.

Every autumn as the days get shorter I find myself spending more time in the home gym.  This year I have the added incentive of a fitness contest sponsored by my employer.  The contest began today and runs through Nov. 4.  I’m not sure whether there are any prizes to be won, but the competition itself will provide a little extra motivation for me to keep hitting the weights and to look for other cross-training exercises.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

2012 Sheboygan Cyclocross

I expected more than I could deliver today at Sheboygan in the first race of the 2012 WCA cyclocross season.  The race wasn’t a total disaster—I finished in 7th place out of 16 in the Cat 4 Masters 45+ age group—but I really had hoped to be on the podium.

I got off to a good start and was holding on in the Top 5 for the first half of Lap 1.  But then I just couldn’t sustain the pace of the leaders and once I lost contact I was easy prey for a couple of guys who had been chasing me.  Single-speeder John Grosz passed me to slip into 6th place and then John Norman dropped me into 8th place early in Lap 3.

Norman’s pass broke me out of a funk.  I knew the leaders were now long gone and my motivation was waning.  But I have a good head-to-head record against Norman in both cyclocross and mountain bike racing, so I resolved not to let him get away.  I stayed on his wheel for a few minutes, then reclaimed 7th place by mid-lap and extended my advantage to the finish.

PJ Braun was today’s winner, edging 2011 winner Timm Jacobson.  Today’s course was very different from last year’s.  The steep hill known as “The Equalizer” was removed from this year’s course, as was the corkscrew.  Overall, today’s course was less technically demanding.  A long section of sandy beach was the toughest challenge—I certainly didn’t get close to riding its entire length—but there were no really tight corners or off-camber turns.  Unfortunately, much of the course still consisted of bumpy straightaways and high grass that just sucked the energy out of every pedal stroke.

The other West Bend guys agreed with me after the race that our performances demand a redoubling of our efforts when we meet again for practice on Tuesday.  Despite a fast start, Jeff Wren placed 12th today.  Troy Sable, suffering from a rear derailleur problem, was 16th.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sponsorship Matters

Yesterday morning, Wisconsin-based Trek came up big for American cyclocross by announcing its sponsorship of the US Gran Prix series.  Trek’s patronage guarantees that there will be a series this year, something that looked very doubtful earlier this week when it became evident that former title sponsor Exergy wasn’t paying the bills.  It’s good business for Trek to get behind the USGP, especially since the series kicks off Sep. 22-23 in Sun Prairie, just 11 miles from Trek’s headquarters in Waterloo.  Also rallying behind the USGP were Clif Bar, SRAM, and WD-40, which is launching a new line of cycling-specific products.

The USGP is the premier cyclocross series in the country, attracting the best American riders and even some top European pros.  It would have been a shame to let it die.  For the last couple of seasons I have really enjoyed watching live Internet video of the races.  I haven’t been to any USGP events in person, but I know people who have as spectators and as amateur racers.  Those of us who enjoy the series owe a big Thank You to the corporations that stepped in to save it, and we can show our gratitude at the cash register.

Sponsorship is everywhere in bicycle racing, whether you’re watching the USGP, the Tour de France, or just wearing the jersey of your neighborhood bike shop in a local event.  It’s easy to forget that all of those logos represent businesses that have helped to offset the costs of the sport we love.  Well, today I’m proud to say that there’s a SRAM drivetrain on my Trek mountain bike, that I use WD-40 for a bunch of things around the house and garage, and that Clif Bars go with me to every race and long training ride.

USA Cycling also has a group of corporate sponsors and I try to patronize them when I can.  Earlier this year, for example, I rented a car from Hertz for a business trip.  By using my USA Cycling member discount, the cost I passed on to my employer was lower than the corporate rate I would have gotten from my company’s preferred provider!

And there are other companies that support cycling in its various forms.  Cyclocross is dominating my thoughts this week, so I decided to drop $20 on a 1-year subscription to Cyclocross Magazine.  If the magazine’s circulation increases, then more advertisers will spend more money and the whole cycling economy will benefit.

I don’t have the deep pockets of a corporate sponsor, but I can help to make a difference.  So can you.  Please support the companies that support cycling.  Eat that big bowl of Bob’s Red Mill oatmeal, book that room at the Holiday Inn, “Sell or Buy with Brittany Nigh” and, above all, show some love for your local bike shop.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

On The Question Of Upgrading

The 2013 mountain bike season is a long way off, but I’m already considering the question of whether to upgrade from Cat 3 (WORS “Citizens” class) to Cat 2 (WORS “Sport” class).  I was sort of hoping the question would resolve itself: with three Top 10 overall finishes this year I would have been forced to upgrade.  I’ve had two such results and missed a third by just 18 seconds at Suamico on Aug. 26.  The last three WORS races on this year’s schedule conflict with my cyclocross ambitions and I may skip all of them, so the chances of triggering an automatic upgrade are very low.

Arguing in favor of upgrading are my age group victory at the Reforestation Ramble, my eight appearances on the podium in nine races this season, and the fact that my closest series rivals have already announced their plans to upgrade.  Upgrading would put me in the same race as many of my cyclocross rivals—including carpool buddy Jeff Wren—and would allow me to race later in the day when the temperature is higher, always an advantage for me.

Arguing against upgrading is my desire to remain competitive.  Being one of the top guys in my age group has been a lot of fun.  Moving up to Sport for 2013, I likely would find myself an anonymous also-ran in the middle of the pack … at best.  I have the fitness to handle longer races, but the upgrade also would mean competing on more difficult terrain.  That’s the part for which I don’t feel prepared.

Can I get prepared?  There are 8 months between now and next season.  Winter will make some of that time unsuitable for mountain biking, but still I should have a lot of opportunities to improve my singletrack skills.  And would it be so bad to dedicate the 2013 racing season to development rather than to competition?  There’s no training like racing.  Jeramey Werbelow reminded me of that while pondering the ramifications of his own upgrade for the 2013 road racing season.

Coming into 2012, I didn’t have any series ambitions and I was prepared to take my lumps.  Finding a little success was a bonus.  The season I have had is the one I thought I might have in 2013.  And if I’m a year ahead of schedule, then surely I can afford to use next season to become a competitive Sport racer.  I think I just talked myself into making the choice to move up.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ready, Set, Cowbell!

Recent training rides and mountain bike races have given me good indications that my fitness is where it should be for the cyclocross season, now only five days away.  And just like last year when I came out of the Kirke Vei Time Trial feeling good about my preparations, today another TT effort gave me a confidence boost.

I covered 19.3 miles in 54:14, beating my previous best time by 33 seconds on a rolling course in northwestern Washington County.  That’s a 21.35 mph average … not bad.  I placed sixth out of seven riders in today’s unsanctioned TT, but really I wanted only to beat my old record.  Back on Memorial Day I completed the course in 54:47, a 2:36 improvement over my time from July 2011.  Today’s improvement wasn’t as dramatic, but it’s still faster and that’s good enough for me.

I have arrived at the beginning of September with great fitness and without any hint of burnout.  At this time last year I was already seeing signs of fatigue.  This year I have ridden more frequently but for a lower per-ride distance, and I have stayed fresh both mentally and physically by doing a nice mix of endurance road and rec trail rides, mountain bike races and skills practices, fast group rides, time trials, and cyclocross practices.  Since May I have been riding about 600 miles per month while still taking 7-8 days per month completely off the bike.

The season opener of the WCA cyclocross season will take place this Saturday in Sheboygan and I feel ready.  Between now and then I will stick with what has been working.  Tomorrow I will practice my ’cross skills at Royal Oaks Park.  On Wednesday I’ll take a rest day.  On Thursday I think I’ll do a few laps aboard my 29er at New Fane—mustn’t forget to work on mountain biking skills.  On Friday I’ll probably do a fairly short road ride with a couple of sprint intervals.

Last year was something of an experiment as I jumped into cyclocross for the first time.  This year I expect good results.  Success at Sheboygan would be a sign of good things to come; failure would send me back to the drawing board.  But should failure come, at least I will have time to make adjustments.  Mom goes back to Pennsylvania tomorrow, my wife goes back to work and my kids go back to school.  Life has been in overdrive for the last few weeks but it looks like things are about to become much less complicated.